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Poster: HektorT Date: Jul 10, 2010 7:06am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Are any of these titles in the Public Domain?

One of the reasons that public domain law is as vague as it is, is that few cases ever get to court. If a big Hollywood film studio puts a Cease & Desist on you, most peole think it makes sense to Desist, so there is never a trial and the law doesn't become any clearer. If Batjac vs Goodtimes never went to court, a lot of stuff would never clearly be PD and the studios would continue to claim rights to it. Maybe Batjac did this because they thought they could make money and maybe they did it because the thought that a legal precedent needed to be set, and they could afford it. There are sometimes cases where the cost of legal counsel is much less than you would expect either because one of the defendants is a lawyer or because the law firm agrees to do pro bono. In any case, in 1998 it was not at all clear that protecting your riht to continue to sell VHS home video would mean you also protect, ten years later, the rights of every tom dick and harry with a dvd ripping software and an internet connection to sell download copies of that movie or broadcast it online for free. It's a different world now.

If you scour the web a bit, you'll see that McClintock is often included on a list of Favorite John Wayne films. That shows the value of the Public Domain. I'd be willing to bet that McClintock is watched more than any other non-PD John Wayne film (it's the only PD JW film in color). When something is free it is available to the masses. People living in India who make a few hundred dollars a month and speak fluent english can watch McClintock when they wonder what John Wayne is all about.

Ask people to name a horror film? How often does "Night of the Living Dead" come up? Same story. It's PD, plus it is good.

Maybe it would be a good idea for somebody like the EFF to set up a legal defense fund and choose one or two PD cases a year to defend, to help keep things honest and ensure that the law continues to evolve and/or become more clear.